Students often overlook one important benefit of volunteerism. While students realize that scholarships and bursaries usually require community engagement, they often forget that volunteerism can also give you the edge you need after you finish your degree.
Through a recent volunteer stint, I’ve met Crystal Kwon, an SFU alumnus who has used volunteerism as a leverage to place her career in the speed lane. After she graduated from SFU on summer 2007 with a major in Communications and a minor in Publishing, Crystal took on a volunteer internship position with STC Canada West Coast, a non-profit organization dedicated to technical communication.
Crystal is now a publicist for the Vancouver International Dance Festival, but she credits her time as a volunteer for providing her with the experience she needed to break into her chosen field. While her main job with STC Canada West Coast was to assist with the launch and the management of a technical publication competition, the volunteer opportunity enabled Crystal to work on various aspects of the competition including event planning and marketing.
I recently asked Crystal for some of her thoughts about volunteerism and how her experience can help current SFU students.
What major accomplishments you have with STC Canada West Coast are you most proud of?
I’ve created a comprehensive marketing and PR strategy for them to increase the visibility of the technical writing industry. Also, I’ve devised a sponsorship package that they’ve requested to use not only for the competition I’ve managed for them but for the chapter as a whole.
How did your position with STC West Coast help you acquire your current role?
STC gave me the appropriate real-world experience with tasks which were essential to break into the field I wanted to pursue. By having many samples of my work, my potential employers were able to see products of my work prior to my employment.
How can volunteerism help current SFU students get the job they want after they graduate?
Volunteerism is an excellent opportunity to be exposed to tasks or experiences that typically you would not have the introduction in a paying job. Often, companies understand that students have objectives as well and will expose them to certain tasks even in an observing role so they can have a feel for the job.
Also, volunteering allows students to experience a bit of work life which is a different lifestyle than the student role. Getting ahead means that students need to make sacrifices to obtain this experience before graduating to obtain the edge against your competition.
Do you have any advice to students who are thinking about volunteering but who don’t think they have the time to do so?
It is a sacrifice, but keep a long-term outlook on things and look beyond today, or this month. Volunteering at the right places will definitely help advance your career, perhaps by months or years. When you put it in that mind frame, it doesn’t seem like a waste of time. It is an investment in your future.